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The Survivor Monologues


A week before her final exams at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Brass was diagnosed with leukemia. She spent the next year in and out of the hospital for treatments that included a stem-cell transplant. She’s currently cancer-free but still receives chemotherapy every month as a preventive measure.

I think cancer is worst for young adults—all your friends are moving on, having boyfriends and babies. It does a lot for your perspective and all that baloney, but you’re stuck at home, miserable, and you don’t have hair. I had a rash, and my ears kept getting clogged. I got so many IVs that my veins gave out, and I always had enormous bruises on my arm. I had a sunburn from the radiation, but only the top half of my face. At one point I was on a liquid diet and steroids. Steroids make you hungry: at 2 a.m., I’d wake up starving and hobble over to the pantry—and get out Jell-O, because that was all I could eat. I also got neutropenic—it’s called “chemo brain.” You don’t even have the concentration skills to read a book. I couldn’t even just sit for two hours, because I’d fall asleep.

I was in the hospital for six days at a time getting chemo, and the weeks when I wasn’t in chemo I still had to go in three times a week. I couldn’t see my friends, because I had to avoid germs. I had a bad roommate situation—when I was first diagnosed, she canceled her Passover vacation, but later, when we got in a fight, she threw it back in my face: “I came to visit you in the hospital all the time.” People ask me if I’ve been dating. How could I date? I’m bald. I gained 30 pounds. What do people my age talk about? I couldn’t tell you. I’m at home watching television all day. I just want to go out and have fun, but I have to stay home and take my pill at eight o clock.


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